The Weekend Wanderer: 2 November 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Kanye West“Kanye West, Heretic by Nature, Finds God” – Two confessions. First, I have never been a huge fan of hip hop. Sorry. My high school and college-age kids love it, but it’s not my first choice for listening. Second, one of the few exceptions to that is Kanye West’s 2008 album, 808s & Heartbreak. I enjoy listening to that album because of West’s vulnerability and the funky vibes. Last Friday, Kanye released his most recent musical project entitled Jesus is King. In a two-hour interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, West claims to have undergone a conversion to Christianity, and wants to turn his life around and tell everyone about it. He even asked those participating in the album to abstain from premarital sex during the recording process. Critics abound, but something is happening here. West has been pulling together worship services during the past year, including an Easter Sunday morning worship service at Coachella. I can’t help but think of Bob Dylan’s conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s that brought about some of the most interesting “gospel” music of that era, including albums like Slow Train Coming and live performances with a gospel choir and invitations to receive Christ. Christian hip hop star, Lecrae, shares some of his thoughts on Kanye’s album and journey with Billboard. Time will tell what all of this really means in Kanye West’s life but in the meantime we can enjoy the music.

 

Kirk Franklin“Kirk Franklin Boycotts Dove Awards for Cutting His Prayers for Black Victims” – Loving others means hearing them, even when it hurts. This is true in friendship, marriage, parenting, and with others whose situation we don’t entirely understand. Listening to others is particularly important in situations fraught with tension, even though it can be difficult and painful. When he won Dove Awards in 2016 and now in 2019 Kirk Franklin called people to prayer for the killing of African Americans within our country. Both times, TBN cut that portion of Franklin’s awards speech out of their broadcast. In response, after seeking council and addressing this with the Dove Awards committee both times, Franklin is boycotting the Dove Awards until change happens. I encourage you to watch to Franklin address this in a pair of Twitter videos, and listen to his important words: “Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience.”

 

92447“The Cautionary Tale of Jerry Falwell Jr.” – Mark Galli writes a reflection on Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his leadership at Liberty University that quickly turns into a reflection on the crisis of evangelical “leadership.” This is something I have reflected on quite a bit over the last year, but Galli pulls it all together in quick form in a way that asks what it would look like to return to biblical characteristics of leadership. Along with Galli’s important thoughts, I also sense we need to evaluate not just job descriptions, but the culture of evangelical institutions, whether schools, church, or other, and why it might be that they often produce the sort of leaders we know do not look like Christ.

 

92693“There’s No One Christian View on Turks and Kurds” – A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the tensions in northeast Syria in which I called Christians to awareness of the plight of Christians in the Middle East more broadly and this latest situation. (“Standing with Christians in Northeast Syria“). I really appreciated this recent article in Christianity Today exploring the complexity of this situation and the variety of perspectives present even in the region about how to view it. The diversity of voices invited to speak to this issue makes the article invaluable.

 

C S Lewis“When C.S. Lewis Predicted Our Doom” – If you asked me what my favorite work by C. S. Lewis is, I would tend to point to The Great DivorceMere Christianity, or The Weight of Glory (worth the cost of the book for the title essay alone). Of course, I love the Narnia books and The Screwtape Letters, but they are not really my favorite. If you were to ask the same question of my wife, Kelly, you might be surprised to hear her, a high school English teacher and spiritual mentor to many, immediately say The Abolition of Man. That book, although not always as well known to a broad audience, is Lewis’ pointed critique of modern liberal culture and the loss of a sense of humanity and virtue in an attempt to re-order the world. Matt Purple’s essay here combines a reading of The Abolition of Man in tandem with the third book in Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, to draw attention to his insights into the coming dystopian world.

 

Music: Vampire Weekend, “Sunflower,” (ft Steve Lacy) from Father of the Bride

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 June 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

smartphone-usage“The Greatest Enemy of a Leader (And What to Do About It)”J. R. Briggs writes about his own personal grappling with what a recent interview mentioned as the greatest enemy of a leader. This parallels some of my own journey with distraction, technology, and recovering focus in my life. “Several months ago I listened to a fascinating podcast interview on the importance of focused work. The leader being interviewed said one of the greatest enemies of leaders today was distraction. I stopped to listen more intently—this was not the answer I was expecting him to say. He went on to share that our phones are the single greatest factor to distraction in the life of a leader.”

 

90982“Pro-Lifers Aren’t Hypocrites” – Here is Tish Harrison Warren addressing the hype around anti-abortion campaigns around the nation and claims of hypocrisy that have been leveled against pro-life advocates. “In any debate about abortion, someone will eventually say that pro-lifers only care about babies until birth or only care about children in the womb, not outside of it. The pro-choice advocacy group NARAL even uses this ubiquitous cliché in an ongoing public campaign that encourages supporters to share memes spotlighting ‘pro-life hypocrisy.’…This cliché distorts our picture of the pro-life movement and is often used to dismiss the larger moral argument that a person in utero is a human being who deserves legal protection. Its invocation allows pro-choice advocates to hold their opponents to abstracted standards of radicalism in order to sidestep substantive debate.”

 

transgender-protest-erase“A Kind of Experiment, Separating Gender and Sex: Why the Church Says No” – Since we’re on the run with hot topics, why not take a read of Kevin D. Williamson’s sharp critique of current gender theory and the recent Vatican release of “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” Williamson writes: “For this reason, the Catholic Church’s education committee, the Congregation for Catholic Education, formally, has turned its attention to one of the peculiar and destructive ideas of our time, what it describes as ;’the theory of a radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the latter.’…The stakes here are high, as the Church sees it, employing language that will be entirely familiar to American conservatives: ‘Similar theories aim to annihilate the concept of nature,’ the document reads, ‘that is, everything we have been given as a preexisting foundation of our being and action in the world.'”

 

lost worlds.jpeg“Longing for lost worlds won’t convert America” – And in case reading some of these articles gets your blood boiling and ready to amp up the culture war, then you might benefit from reading Matthew Schmitz’s essay. Schmitz, a conservative and Senior Editor for First Things, writes: “Converting America begins with love, not contempt. We should cherish our nation’s variegated traditions, its multi-racial people, its habits of piety and liberality. Anyone who presents America as irredeemably ‘commercial’, ‘Protestant’, ‘liberal’ or ‘decadent’ has conceded the territory for which he should contend. Those who dream of defending the Church against 20th-century Spanish anti-clericals should be equally eager to protect her rights in 21st-century America. Those who lament the fall of Austro-Hungary should also resist those who would tear apart the United States.”

 

NL-2-300x199.jpg“Are All White People Privileged?” – Cultural competence consultant, David Livermore reflects on white privilege from a cultural intelligence framework in this provocative article. “You can’t have an honest conversation about cultural intelligence (CQ) without addressing white privilege,  the idea that white people inherit certain privileges simply by the color of their skin. But privilege is not an easy topic of conversation. People on all sides of the issue quickly become emotional and defensive. People of color are fatigued by having to prove the point to white colleagues while many white people feel anything but privileged and experience what Robin DiAngelo refers to as white fragility.

 

Historical Document US Constitution“The Pursuit of Happiness Rightly Understood” – “On the day C.S. Lewis died, his last written work was already in press with the Saturday Evening Post. ‘We have no “right to happiness,”‘ Lewis declared in the essay, by which he meant that we have no moral right to trample the rules of justice to gratify our impulses.”

 

Crying in Church“Crying in Church” – Here’s Martha Park in Image: “When I first started attending church again, I found myself crying at some point during every service. It could happen any time: at the start of worship, when my dad stands in the hallway ringing a hand bell, the signal for us all to settle into our pews; or at the start of a hymn I have not heard in church for years but find myself humming even now; or when my father baptizes a baby and asks us all to promise we will ‘nurture one another in the Christian faith and life.'”

 

king-kong-story“Data from a Century of Cinema Reveals How Movies Have Evolved” – Okay, so I have to admit that I’m a cinephile. I love film, even if our family has agreed to forego movies for the summer to take advantage of the beautiful Wisconsin summers. But in this article, Greg Miller at Wired explores how shorter shots, different patterns of shots, more motion, and changing light has shifted the way that movies are developed and our experience of film.

 

MusicHenryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 [“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”], Op. 36

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 February 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Jemar Tisby“This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church” – In the first of two articles on issues of race and the church in this week’s edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” I’m sharing Jemar Tisby’s reflections on the ways in which the church often ignores current challenges around issues of ethnicity, racism, and inequality. Tisby is an important voice in Christianity on racial issues today, advocating for engagement with these challenging issues in his recent book, The Color of Compromise, and over at The Witness. Just before I published this edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” Tisby was featured in an interview with Wesley Hill at Comment Magazine entitled “The Future of Church-Race Relations” that is well worth the read.

 

Roger E Olson.jpg“Is Evangelicalism White?” – The second article on this topic is by theologian and church historian, Roger E. Olson. In this essay, Olson makes a case that contemporary equation of evangelicalism with whiteness within news and sociology misses the point of a more nuanced discussion of evangelicalism from unique viewpoints of spiritual-theological ethos and sociological-religious movement.

 

Oneya Okuwobi“‘Everything that I’ve Done Has Always Been Multiethnic’: Biographical Work among Leaders of Multiracial Churches” – On a related theme, Oneya Okuwobi recently published a journal article on biographical work with pastors of multiethnic churches. She write: “I find that pastors of multiracial churches pattern their biographies after two predominant formula stories, laying claim to being people who are experienced with diversity and/or experienced with racial injustice. These formula stories reveal institutionalized understandings of biographies acceptable for pastors of multiracial churches that cut across denominational lines. The biographies of these leaders also reveal a shift toward diversity and away from recognition of racial injustice that has implications for the racial structure.”

 

89461“Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Gospel of Shame-Free Sexuality”Wesley Hill reviews Nadia Bolz-Weber’s latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. Bolz-Weber is an iconoclastic Lutheran pastor who has been a spokesperson for progressive Christianity. While I’m sympathetic to some of her statements about fundamentalist Christianity, Hill’s even-handed and clear assessment of this book is worth reading. If you prefer a more blunt, but honest and accurate, assessment of Bolz-Weber, let me refer you to Rod Dreher’s “Sex & the Single Pastor.”

 

Barna_2019_RevivingEvangelism_charts_v1“Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong” – A new study by the Barna Group and commissioned by Alpha USAReviving Evangelism, highlights some disappointing yet unsurprising trends in contemporary North American Christianity. The trend that has made the most headlines (see “Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize” in Christianity Today) is the identification that, while prepared to share their faith, most millennial Christians are unsure of whether evangelism is something they should do at all. The chart I post on the right highlights how this is a progression of something that has been developing in earlier generations as well.

 

Michael Green“Alister McGrath: Michael Green Taught Me the Importance of Evangelism” – Since we’re on the topic of evangelism, I hope you enjoy this personal reflection by Alister McGrath on the life and legacy of Michael Green, one of the greatest champions for evangelism in the late 20th century. I first encountered Green’s work through a class with one of my mentors, Dr. Lyle Dorsett, entitled “Jesus and Evangelism.” Green is perhaps best known for two of his books, Evangelism in the Early Church and I Believe in the Holy Spirit, although he wrote many more. You will not have wasted your time if you read those great books, and if you put them into practice in your own life.

 

tell-your-children“Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence”Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter and author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, summarizes some of the mains strands of his exploration within that book in this relatively brief essay. This is particularly relevant because as the rise in marijuana usage combines with efforts at legalization that do not always tell the whole story about the impact of marijuana on the human body and mind, let alone society as a whole.

 

endpapers“Hold the front pages: meet the endpaper enthusiasts” – Now for something a little lighter. Enjoy this article focusing on the beauty of endpapers in book publishing.  “In a small sanctuary from world events, book lovers gather to sigh over the most beautiful decorative pages and compare techniques.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

Music: “Everlasting God” by William Murphy.  [Thanks to Gabriel Douglas for sharing this link with me.]

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 February 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

86016“Philippine Church Bombing Kills 20 After Vote for Muslim Governance” – “Filipino Christians are mourning at least 20 churchgoers and soldiers as martyrs after terrorists attacked a Catholic cathedral during Sunday mass in a heavily Muslim island in the southern Philippines. Two bombs went off at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo within minutes, the first blasting through rows of pews and the second shooting from the entrance to kill scrambling parishioners as well as the guards positioned outside to protect the church week after week.”

 

asiabibipakistan“Pakistan’s Supreme Court Upholds Christian Woman’s Blasphemy Acquittal” – From NPR: “On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, clearing the way for her to leave the country as radical Islamists seethe. Asia Bibi, a mother and illiterate farmhand of Christian faith, spent eight years on death row, until the country’s top court acquitted her last October, sparking massive protests across Pakistan.”

 

Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_1974b“Aleksandr the Great” – John Wilson reflects on the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s legacy, one-hundred years after his birth on December 11, 1918. Wilson writes: “It would have been much better for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s posthumous reputation if the KGB had killed him just before or shortly after he was expelled from the Soviet Union in February 1974. Had that happened, he would have been a figure like Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we have just celebrated: above criticism, a martyr of sorts.”

 

theyearofourlord1943“The Year of Whose Lord?: Let’s not expect too much of (Christian) humanism” – At Comment, Chad Wellmon reviews and respond to one of my favorite books of 2018, Alan Jacobs‘ In the Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis. Wellmon provides a valuable look at an alternative take on Christian humanism from the figures of Jacobs’ book (W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Jacques Maritain, and Simone Weil) in the form of Swiss theologian Karl Barth.

 

weight“Self-Control, the Leader’s Make-or-Break Virtue” – In light of the challenging array of pastoral failure over the last few years, Drew Dyck’s essay about the need for self-control in leadership is right on time. “Self-control is essential for every Christian. But as Strachan observed, for leaders the stakes are especially high. It’s no wonder Scripture lists self-control as a qualification for church leaders (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:2), describes it as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), and likens a person without it to “a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28).”

 

walterrauschenbush“When Christian Evangelicals Loved Socialism” – The title might stir enough trouble in itself, but Peter Feuerherd’s examination of a unique time in the early twentieth century is worthwhile because this historical precedent is on the rise in some evangelical circles in our own day. Whether modern evangelicals would embrace Feuerherd’s definition of evangelicalism is debatable, but the article is still worth the read. “Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor ministering to the poor on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, proposed an evangelical viewpoint that strongly embraced socialist ideals. During an 1891 trip to Germany, Rauschenbusch began formulating his view of the Kingdom of God, a concept that Jesus in the Gospels regularly refers to. Often, Jesus’s teaching is seen as referring to the afterlife, but Rauschenbusch and other Social Gospel thinkers saw it as relevant to contemporary times. Rauschenbusch promoted the idea that Christians needed to transform society to favor the poor and the oppressed.”

 

nancypelosigalencarey“Pelosi praises evangelicals in address to Christian college presidents, cites Matthew 25” – Not exactly the headline I expected to see, but a conversation hosted at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) Presidents’ Conference involving both Betsy DeVos and Nancy Pelosi is fascinating in itself.  The conversation involves education, health care, immigration, and so much more. One of my former bosses, Galen Carey, of the National Association of Evangelicals, appears at one point as well.

In[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Transformation into Christlikeness is Possible: Dallas Willard

DallasWillard-sm

While preparing for a retreat with Eastbrook Church’s student ministry, I came across this excerpt from Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard that hit home to me. Given some of my recent reflections on the nature of pastoral leadership in North America (see “Five Themes of Resilient Ministry” and “Five Steps for Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership“), this section on the gaps and possibilities of Christian formation in our lives, particularly the Christian formation of pastors and leaders, was resoundingly important to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

First of all we must be clear that such a transition as is envisioned in Christian spiritual formation can actually happen, and can actually happen to us. This, today, is not obvious.

What we see around us today of the “usual” Christian life could easily make us think that spiritual transformation is simply impossible. It is now common for Christian leaders themselves to complain about how little real-life difference there is between professing, or even actual Christians, on the one hand, and non-Christians on the other. Although there is much talk about “changing lives” in Christian circles, the reality is very rare, and certainly much less common than the talk.

The “failures” of prominent Christian leaders themselves, already referred to, might cause us to think genuine spiritual formation in Christlikeness to be impossible for “real human beings.” How is it, exactly, that a man or woman can respectably serve Christ for many years and then morally disintegrate? And the failures that become known are few compared to the ones that remain relatively unknown and are even accepted among Christians.

Recently, I learned that one of the most prominent leaders in an important segment of Christian life “blew up,” became uncontrollably angry, when someone questioned him about the quality of his work. This was embarrassing, but it is accepted (if not acceptable) behavior; and in this case, it was the one who was questioning him who was chastised. That is in fact a familiar pattern in both Christian and non-Christian “power structures.” But what are we to say about the spiritual formation of that leader? Has something been omitted? Or is he really the best we can do?

The same questions arise with reference to lay figures in areas of life such politics, business, entertainment, or education, who show the same failures of character while openly identifying themselves as Christians. It is unpleasant to dwell on such cases, but they must be squarely faced.

Of course the effects of such failures depend on the circumstances, on how widely the failure becomes known, and on various other factors. In another case a pastor became enraged at something a subordinate did during a Sunday morning service. Immediately after the service he found that subordinate and gave him a merciless tongue-lashing. With his lapel mike still on! His diatribe was broadcast over the entire church plant and campus-in all the Sunday school rooms and the parking lot. Soon thereafter he “received the Lord’s call” to another church. But what about the spiritual formation of this leader? Is that the best we can do? And is he not still really like that in his new position?

Malfeasance with money is less acceptable than anger, and sexual misconduct is less tolerated still. But is the inner condition (the heart) all that different in these cases-before God?

The sad thing when a leader (or any individual) “fails” is not just what he or she did, but the heart and life and whole person who is revealed by the act. What is sad is who these leaders have been all along, what their inner life has been like, and no doubt also how they have suffered during all the years before they “did it” or were found out. What kind of persons have they been, and what, really, has been their relation to God?

Real spiritual need and change, as we have emphasized, is on the inside, in the hidden area of the life that God sees and that we cannot even see in ourselves without his help. Indeed, in the early stages of spiritual development we could not endure seeing our inner life as it really is. The possibility of denial and self-deception is something God has made accessible to us, in part to protect us until we begin to seek him. Life the face of the mythical Medusa, our true condition away from God would turn us to stone if we ever fully confronted it. It would drive us mad. He has to help us come to terms with it in ways that will not destroy us outright.

Without gently though rigorous process of inner transformation, initiated and sustained by the graceful presence of God in our world and in our soul, the change of personality and life clearly announced and spelled out in the Bible, and explained and illustrated throughout Christian history, is impossible. We not only admit it, but also insist upon it. But on the other hand, the result of the effort to change our behavior without inner transformation is precisely what we see in the current shallowness of Western Christianity that is so widely lamented and in the notorious failures of Christian leaders.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 December 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

85262“John the Baptist Points to the Real Hope of Advent” – Fleming Rutledge reflects on how both Advent and John the Baptist are apparently out of touch with the cultural currents that surround Christmas. Connecting with the longing for Jesus to come as Judge, “John does not proclaim Jesus as a captivating infant smiling benevolently at groups of assorted rustics, potentates, and farm animals. Instead, he cries out, ‘He who is coming after me is mightier than I. . . . His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:11–12).” Her entire article is compelling. [Thanks to David Bier for sharing this with me.]

 

brunson22a“‘A living martyr’” – World Magazine names Andrew Brunson as their “Daniel of the year,” following accusations against him in Turkey and his recent release from imprisonment.  “Jailed in October 2016 and subsequently charged with espionage and terrorism, Andrew Brunson found himself catapulted to the center of global headlines and U.S.-Turkey relations. Norine, jailed briefly then released, never left Turkey, knowing she might not be allowed to return to support her husband. Now they were home to family and friends.”

 

Mar Mattai Monastery Iraq“The Vanishing: The plight of Christians in an age of intolerance” – Janine di Giovanni reports on something that many of us have been highlighting for the past few years: the excavation of a persecuted Christian minority from the Middle East. “The Christians here have endured invasions by Persians, Kurds, and Turks, but they have recovered after each persecution. This is, in part, their tradition: they believe in their sacred right to their land. . . . The persecution of Christians in Iraq began as early as the thirteenth century. But in recent years it has reached a tipping point, setting off a mass exodus. In 2002, when I was living in Baghdad, six months before the US invasion, there were nearly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Today there are between 250,000 and 300,000 left, according to Samuel Tadros, a fellow at the Hudson Institute.” You may also want to read this recent, similar statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury: “Christians on brink of extinction in Middle East, warns Archbishop of Canterbury.”

 

2013_9-16-The-Russian-Orthodox-Church“Israel expropriates almost 70 acres of Catholic Church property” – On a related topic, The Middle East Monitor reports: “Israel’s occupation authorities expropriated almost 70 acres of Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley and West Bank on Tuesday, Shehab news agency has reported. The land is owned by the Roman Catholic Church — the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — in the villages of Bardala and Tayaseer near the West Bank city of Tubas and in the Jordan Valley respectively.” Is it for security or settlements? Either way, the church just lot its property to the state.

 

A Uyghur woman walks pass a statue of Mao Zedong in the“The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam” – On a related topic, in The New York Times Review of Books, Ian Johnson offers an extended reflection on Islam in China, with particular attention to the Uighurs in northwest China. He also gives some helpful reflections on why China has struggled to accept Christianity, as well as other religions viewed as subversive.

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 11.36.26 AM“All the presidents at the Bush funeral service together recited this core prayer. Except one.” – There was a little kerfuffle in the Twitter-sphere when people noticed that President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump did not recite the Apostles Creed after the homily during George H. W. Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral. Michelle Boorstein offers an even-handed reflection on the history and significance of the Apostles Creed, and also why the Trumps did not recite it during the service. You can also read my article about why we now recite the Apostles Creed when taking communion at Eastbrook Church.

 

pexels-photo-684387“The Dominant Approach to Leadership in the Church and Why Jesus Means to Upend It”Kyuboem Lee over at Missio Alliance: “There’s a reason many pastors feel used and abused—they’ve been living as cogs in the wheels of the Church Industrial Complex (as my friends JR and Dan White say in their book, Church as Movement). What is the remedy? It’s certainly not trying harder to keep the machine going. Jesus said there is a different kingdom—and a different way of governing, or leading. A different theology of power for a different kingdom. And out of it, a different way of structuring ourselves as society or organization or community. The greatest in this society will be the servant of all.”

 

civil war“Battle Lines: Recovering the profound divisions that led to the Civil War” – Numerous people have recommended that I read Andrew Delbanco’s The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War. I haven’t had the chance to get there yet, but a tantalizing appetizer came this past week in Gordon Wood’s in-depth review of both Delbanco’s book and Sean Wilentz’s No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding. The review sends you deep into the history of slavery in our country to some profound wrestling with what was really going on.

 

3309“Unknown John Donne manuscript discovered in Suffolk” – This might just be the English-major in me, or it might be the poetry lover in me, but I found this article about a recently discovered manuscript of John Donne’s poetry fascinating. Donne is that well-known 17th-century love poet, who eventually became an Anglican priest and metaphysical poet. “A previously unrecorded handwritten manuscript of John Donne’s poetry has been found in a box at an English country house in Suffolk. Dating back 400 years, the bound collection was kept for at least the last two centuries at Melford Hall in Suffolk.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Shadow-Casting Monsters: Parker Palmer on dealing with our souls, part 3

parker-palmer-header-520x280Bringing my reflections on Parker Palmer’s five ‘shadow-casting monsters’ from his book Let Your Life Speak, I want to bring our attention to the fourth and fifth of that list today.

Shadow-Casting Monsters #4:
4. “Fear, especially our fear of the natural chaos of life” (89).

Don’t we fear the chaos of things? Having participated in church planting in various forms over the past ten years, as well as also following up a founding pastor of thirty years at an established church, I have experienced many different forms of the chaos of life. Yet, it has also been in the midst of that chaos that I have seen some of the most exciting and creative things occur. What would have happened if we had rejected the new and exciting because of our overwhelming fear of chaos? Nothing. Nothing would have happened. How completely sad. Palmer goes on to say: “The insight we receive on the inner journey is that chaos is the precondition to creativity: as every creation myth has it, life itself emerged from the void” (89).

5. “The denial of death itself” (90).

Here’s two more insights from Palmer on this one:

We also live in denial of the fact that all things must die in due course. (90)

The best leaders in every setting reward people for taking worthwhile risks even if they are likely to fail. These leaders know that the death of an initiative – if it was tested for good reasons – is always a source of new learning. (90)

This fifth shadow-casting monster reflects perhaps one of the most important things I have learned in the past three years. There are life cycles in our lives, in the seasons, in our work, and in ministry leadership. There is a time to live and there is a time to die, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says.

How often we, as leaders, become a stultifying force in our organizations when we fear the natural way of death. I have seen and experienced the waste that happens when an initiative that needs to die is kept alive because of tradition or some sense wrong ownership. It is no longer fruitful. It is no longer risky and life-giving. God forgive us for doing this in the church.

May we be leaders who face the shadow-casting monsters in our lives, organizations, and ministries so that God’s best for us and others is realized as we work with Him, and not against Him.